When your pet gets sick, it is often difficult to gauge whether or not your pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately, or if your pet’s ailment can be treated the following day by your primary veterinarian. If possible, it is often better to have your veterinarian examine your pet, but there are times when waiting for your veterinarian will be detrimental to your pet’s well-being.
Here are a few guidelines for when it is best to make a trip to your nearest emergency veterinary clinic:
Trouble breathing (a fast breathing rate or increased breathing effort): A pet who struggles to breathe may have pneumonia, an asthma attack, congestive heart failure, or other emergent problem that should be addressed sooner rather than later. In general, it is best to not wait if you suspect your pet is not breathing normally as delaying treatment may make the underlying problem worse. If you notice that your pet is using more of his or her abdominal muscles to breathe, this can be a sign that they are having to try hard to breathe. This should trigger a trip to the veterinarian.
Repeated vomiting and diarrhea: Often, a single bout of vomiting or diarrhea may not be a sign of something serious, but if Fluffy vomits more than one time (especially if she is not eating), has blood in her vomit or diarrhea, or has several bouts of diarrhea, it is best to have her seen as soon as possible. If a pet dry heaves and is restless, this can be a sign of bloat (or gastric dilatation and volvulus), which is a life-threatening emergency that needs to be treated right away.
Ingested toxin or foreign material (grapes, chocolate, lilies, antifreeze, ibuprofen, batteries, socks…) There are a long list of items pets will ingest, not knowing that they are bad for them. If you question whether something is toxic, please call ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) and bring the case number to the emergency hospital. Quick decontamination may save your pet’s life.
Hit by car/trauma: In the unfortunate event of trauma, it is best to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian right away to ensure they are healthy and sound.
Inability to produce urine: Sometimes pets are unable urinate because they have a urinary obstruction. If your pet is posturing to urinate or going in and out of the litterbox without producing normal amounts of urine, he or she should be seen promptly through an emergency room.
Squinting an eye: Squinting and redness of the eyes should be treated as an emergency. Pets can develop glaucoma, deep ulcers, or other issues of the eye that may permanently threaten their vision if not treated quickly.
Open wounds/lacerations: If your pet has a bite wound, laceration, or other wound, prompt medical attention will often help facilitate healing and prevent the development of infection.
Pain, agitation, or discomfort: This is a common emergency that brings many pets to the ER. If your pet is noticeably uncomfortable, it is best to have them seen soon so that their pain can be controlled and the underlying cause addressed.
Lethargy, wobbliness, incoordination: If you notice your pet to be laying in the same spot for hours, is too tired to get up, or seems weak on their feet when standing, it is best to bring them straight to the emergency room for an evaluation. This could be a sign of systemic disease, internal bleeding, toxin, or other ailment requiring rapid intervention.
Seizures or other neurologic issues: If your pet has a first-time seizure, prolonged seizure (greater than 3 minutes), or a change in mental status, it is advised that your pet be evaluated by a veterinarian right away.
In addition to the 10 reasons listed above, your veterinarian may send your pet to the emergency room if they feel we are more equipped to diagnose and manage your pet’s illness. We hope that your pet does not suffer from any of these ailments, but if they do, we will be here to help! If you have any questions about whether or not you should bring them to the emergency room, please call and we will be glad to guide you.